I arrive in Amboise in the early evening by train from Berlin, via Paris. Thomas picks me up. The winemakers Marie Rocher (she buys grapes and makes wine under her own name) and Emmanuel Roblin (from Ab Initio) are already with Thomas, later we welcome Clement Deuve, an old friend of Thomas’s, a prospective vigneron who helps him in the vineyard from time to time, and the vignerons Anne-Cécile Jadaud and Tanguy Perrault. We taste many wines – the highlights are of course the wines of those present; Clement’s first Pét Nat, Anne-Cécile’s and Tanguy’s first Primeur and Emmanuel’s first Ab Initio vintage.
A quiet Sunday with Emmanuel, Noémie and Thomas. In the afternoon Emmanuel leaves us to go back to Muscadet.
We spend a few hours in the vineyard tidying up, including removing the clips that hold the metal ropes together.
With Clement we check the wooden posts in the vineyard to which the metal ropes are attached. Many of these posts have been in the ground for decades. Of course, they will eventually rot and need to be replaced. We also check whether the metal cables are properly attached to each post with a staple. Where it is missing, we replace it. In the afternoon, the Japanese importer of Thomas’s wines visits us and we try our way through the 2021 vintage. The importer is enthusiastic about all the wines. If it were up to her, Thomas could ship the entire vintage to Japan. In the evening we drive to Tours. Thomas delivers an order directly: »Dame Jeanne«, the local wine bar institution has reördered »Le Rayon Blanc« 2020.
In the vineyard we exchange wooden poles. A hole is first made in the ground with a pickaxe in order to completely remove the old post. Then the new post is inserted and fixed by Thomas with a huge hammer.
Today we help Marie Rocher. Her Pét Nat of this year is stored at a local company that specializes in sparkling wine making. We marvel at the retro-futuristic looking machines that rotate the bottles automatically. Our task is to hit the bottom of the bottle with a wooden hammer to break the wine tartrate, crystals that have formed in the bottles. If you don’t break them up they will cause endless gushing once the bottle is opened. We protect hands and eyes in case a bottle explodes. We use earplugs, too. Although the work is monotonous, I enjoy it. We’re done by lunchtime. In the afternoon I start cleaning the harvest boxes. Since the crates will not be used until the next harvest, I clean them very thoroughly with a sponge and a concentrated cleaning liquid. To protect myself from the liquid I wear gloves and goggles. Since we will be bottling my wine from 2021 in the next few days, I fill a glass with wine and place it, unperturbed, on Thomas’s kitchen shelf. I’ll check the wine every morning for the next few days to see if there’s a ›mouse‹ taste. Depending on how stable the wine is, before bottling, we’d add sulphur to preserve and stabilize it or not. I’m tempted to add sulphur in any case, but Tanguy, Thomas and Clement advise against it. »If it’s not absolutely necessary… don’t!«
Today is a public holiday, L’Armistice, commemorating the end of the First World War. We check out the local celebrations and then head to Normandy where we spend two days at a friend of Thomas’s cottage. It’s only on the road that I realize that I didn’t taste my wine this morning and will not be able to do so until our return.
In the evening we are back in Nazelles-Négron. My wine is still doing very well. So my decision is clear: We will bottle without sulphur!
(I don’t take photos, that can only mean that I’ve cleaned harvest bins all day.)
We bottle my wine by hand using gravity. The improvised bottling line runs like clockwork. I fill the bottles with wine, Thomas finely adjusts the filling level and then corks the bottle. I ordered the corks from Aquitaine Liège – not the most expensive model, quite the opposite. However, since I assume that once the wines are on sale they will be drunk more or less immediately, there is no need to use a cork that has been designed for long storage. Even the cheapest Aquitaine Liège cork is still better than most other corks on the market. After corking, the wines must stand upright for some time because the cork will still be expanding.
I put the bottles that didn’t fit in the Pallox container on a shelf in the basement, where the wines can recover from bottling. In the spring I will label the bottles and bring them to Berlin.
Actually, I should have gone back today, but everything goes wrong after my first changing of trains. When I then hear about route closures in Germany, I turn around and go back to Thomas’s. I work on the computer and then help Thomas disgorge his 2021 Pét Nat. Thomas takes care of the actual disgorging, I fill the bottles, cork them with a crown cork and place them in a Pallox container. In the evening I cycle to the local wine shop »Amicalement vin« and surprise Clement, who must have thought that I was already back in Berlin. In the store we celebrate the arrival of the Beaujolais Primeur.